Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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NEW HORIZONS: Contemporary British and American Music.

The Wordsworth Singers
conducted by Michael Hancock Charles Harrison.
WS 001
£10 plus p&p from Frances Faux, Gate Farm, Mungrisdale, Penrith CA11 0XR.
This review will also appear in the British Music Society News

Most of this enterprising disc comprises British music, the exception being Samuel Barber's three piece Reincarnations, in Barber's characteristic late Romantic idiom. The best known item is the Five Spirituals from Tippett's A Child of Our Time (am I alone in preferring some of these in settings by others?) and they feature some very attractive solo work from eight of the 27 strong Wordsworth Singers. Established in 1997, the Singers sound impressive, accomplished, musicianly and nicely balanced with commendably clear diction. Mr. Hancock conducts Barber and Tippett, leaving almost all the rest to Mr. Harrison. Outstanding among this latter repertoire and perhaps of greatest interest to BMS members are the three songs by Edgar Bainton, Open Thy Gates, In The Wilderness and , perhaps best known, The Ballad of Semerwater: sensitive responses to the words, marvellously singable and excellently performed here. The disc is worth investigating for these alone, but we also have a chance to get to know the music of Harold East (1947- ), Canadian-born but long domiciled in London: a short, rousingly extrovert, organ-accompanied Celebratory Anthem, to words by Spenser, a fine partsong Summer and four short organ solos, one written especially for Mr. Harrison, who plays them brilliantly here. Mr. East's music, the most astringent on the disc is well made and has a direct appeal. The other organ solo, the CD's longest track, is Bainton's well worked Fantasia on the plainsong hymn Vexilla Regis. Altogether this is a thoroughly recommendable release, well recorded (in Carlisle Cathedral), if a trifle closely with some slightly prominent sibilants. The booklet prints all the words; a few notes on the music itself would have been helpful.

Philip Scowcroft

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